How the case of the Farrow Murders was the first UK murder case to use fingerprints
In the world of forensics, the role of fingerprints remain an important accessory to any criminal investigation. It is hard to imagine how many cases could have been solved without fingerprint analysis. Though DNA is commonly used in today’s cases, the first murder conviction (in the UK) to use this method was the case of Colin Pitchfork.
On the 19 September 1987, he was arrested. Then on the 22 January 1988, he sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for the murder of two girls in November 1983 and July 1986. Almost 83 years before the start of Pitchfork’s sentence was the case of the Farrow Murders, involving a couple of shopkeepers and two brothers in Deptford. The use of fingerprints for a murder case was just as innovative in 1905 as DNA was in 1988.
On the 27 March 1905, brothers Albert and Alfred Stratton forced their way through the back door of the Farrow’s paint shop. The Chapman’s Oil and Colour Shop on High Street, Deptford, was owned by husband and wife couple Thomas and Ann. In the morning, 16-year-old William Jones visit the shop only to find no response. At that point, Thomas had died, lying in a pool of blood after a severe beating. Ann was rushed to hospital and died a few days later.
Shortly, a police investigation noticed an empty cash box in the Farrow’s flat. There was a greasy fingerprint and this led to further investigations, identity parades and witness testimonies. The cash box was sent to the Scotland Yard’s Fingerprinting Bureau for inspection but they found no match among their 80,000+ set of fingerprints.
After continued investigations came to naught, Detective Inspector Collins said the fingerprints were the most solid source of evidence against the Stratton brothers. He explained to the jury how the fingerprinting system worked. There he said that none of the brothers’ fingerprints matched the individual digits of the 800,000+ set in the Scotland Yard.
In May 1905, Albert and Alfred Stratton were charged with murder and sentenced to death. They were hanged at 9am at Wandsworth Prison on the 23 May 1905.
Forensic Assessment, 24 February 2017.